How to become a geriatrician

Q: I am in high school student and I would like pursue subjects which assist old people. Is there demand for such a career? I have also been told that it is very easy to migrate if I follow this career path.

With the “greying” of the world population demand for workers educated in health sciences is bound to increase. This is especially so for vocations that include caring for the aged. The global share of old people (defined as 65 and over) is expected to increase from 8 % in 2014 to 13% in 2030. Similarly the “old-age dependency ratio”—the ratio of old people to those of working age—is rising. In 2010 the world had 16 old people for every 100 adults between the ages of 25 and 64 (same as in 1980). But by 2035 the UN expects this number to have risen to 26 i.e. a whopping increase of 63%.  While the demographics of the future is crystal clear the trend in some countries is much more pronounced – for instance Japan and Germany will have 69 and 68 old people respectively for every 100 working adults.

With an aging population focus will shift from acute care to treatment of chronic diseases and assisted skilled and non-skilled medical care will be in high demand. Social work skills to work with the elderly will need to be cultivated to provide the best possible care for this generation. The trend overtime will be to make the older adults age comfortably while remaining productive and independent. It is estimate that one out of every four new jobs created in America will be in health care, social assistance or private educational services.

To work and assist the elderly you would need to pursue health care professions such as nursing, social work and counselling requiring the study of biology, sociology and psychology of the aging population. Subsequently you could specialize in the field of gerontology and this will open even more doors. In addition to formal qualifications you would need ability to work well under pressure, deal calmly with emergencies, work within a team and communicate effectively to internal and external stakeholders. Compassion and empathy are two personal traits most required in this profession.

While there is no ambiguity in the overall trend and opportunities in this field one has to be careful not to be lured into vocation/work permit trap.  Admittedly health services could be categorized as jobs in high demand in some countries but you need to be circumspect while applying. Lots of agencies will make tall claims about employment opportunities assuring you of work/residence permits. Do not be lured by such promises and specious advertising. Make sure the service provider has a track record and is recognized by the government and immigration authorities. Be especially wary of private colleges who under the guise of providing education are actually “visa factories”.

Remember if it sounds too good to be true, then in all probability, is the case. 


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